I want now to answer my own question, presented earlier in Style Meld.
F. R. Leavis–that is the writer whose writing I would most like to reduplicate in my own. Part of what I love about Leavis is the spirit on display everywhere in his work, but most obviously perhaps in what he called his “higher pamphleteering”: a remarkably strong push-back against the dead and deadening relationship to language shown throughout our culture, but particularly (alas!) among academic humanists—to use Leavis’ words, a “blind, blank, urbane unconcern” for the kind of sensibility that can live only in a living relationship to language, a kind of sensibility that runs deeply counter to the “technologico-Benthamite” times in which we live. Leavis doesn’t just say things in this spirit, though; every sentence he writes embodies it. His prose appeals, and perhaps can only appeal, to what he termed “the full attention of the waking mind”. His sentences command a discriminating, nervous energy, and carry a relationship to their full context that shapes their content and the choices of words in which they are expressed. So often in Leavis, the argumentative burden is borne not only by the relationships among his sentences but also and simultaneously by the relationships among the words of the sentences. Leavis once remarked that he thought the novel should be a dramatic poem; and certainly for Leavis, criticism is a critical poem. (Leavis’ clear concern for and complete mastery of the (internal and interrelated) rhythm of his sentences is comparable to a great poet’s concern for and complete mastery of meter.) As Wittgenstein once said of Frege, “I wish I could have written like Frege!”, I will say I wish I could write like Leavis! (And of course I do not mean slavishly to copy his style or to produce some stiff-fingered pastiche of his writing, but rather to write in a way that displays the same spirit, as such a spirit might take form in my prose.)
I’ll supply some illustrative quotations, as separate posts, over the next few days.